Principal Dr. Jon Clark rises from his seat on the Webster bench and trots toward center court with five fingers held up, signaling a play. He calls for a sub to check in, then returns to his seat alongside assistant coach Scott Stallcup.
Some things never change.
Clark made his return from the front office to the sidelines on Feb. 11, to coach the Webster men’s basketball team to a dominant 80-30 win over Rockwood Summit.
Bringing him back was a bit of unfinished business from 20 years earlier; a milestone Clark was ever-so-close to when he left his old job at Rolla to be an administrator at Webster; a milestone he didn’t know he was so close to until a year or two after he had walked away from coaching.
One hundred wins.
Clark cruised to the century mark, as Webster jumped to a 35-5 lead against Summit and never looked back. It was 50-14 at halftime.
“I was surprised on how I kinda turned it into my coaching mode, even though it’s been 20 years,” Clark said. “I couldn’t help it, the competitiveness took over.”
“It was kind of like riding a bike,” Stallcup, who coached with Clark at Rolla, said. “He got back into the swing of it pretty quickly; he did a great job.”
Stallcup noticed one especially helpful difference between Clark’s past and present coaching styles. “It was very similar to what he did in Rolla, except I actually got to see part of the game,” Stallcup joked. “Usually he was standing right in front of me, so he did a much better job of letting me watch the game this time.”
Clark even brought some of his favorite plays from his past to Webster, though he was disappointed with the results. “My favorite play did not work. We should’ve practiced it one more time… it would’ve ended with a perfect layup or maybe a dunk.” He blamed himself for not being at practice enough to work on the play with the team.
Still, Clark was at practice and taking a leadership position, as he does as principal. Before the game, he told the Statesmen they reminded him of the old teams that he played for and his father coached in the 1980s.
“I told them stories about when I played for my father in 1984, and how he ‘accidentally’ threw a clipboard at me,” Clark said, quickly adding, “Not that Coach Blossom would ever do that.”
He continued, “My father kept saying that even though I thought I was a good shooter and should’ve played Varsity my junior year, he would never play me because I couldn’t guard anybody, which is exactly what Coach Blossom says. ‘Until you can learn to play defense, you’re not playing on my team.’”
Adding extra meaning to the game was the latest chapter of the ordeal Clark has had with cancerous brain tumors over the years. He had a second surgery performed to remove another such tumor over winter break.
“Even before I knew about the game, I told myself after the second surgery that I have to do a better job reflecting back on my friends, the former places that I’ve worked,” Clark said. “I’ve had a variety of people that have supported me.”
“I wanted to make sure I was prepared (for the game), and there were still plenty of surprises,” Clark said. “The number of students that were there, the faces, the band marching in, the number of former students and coaches and friends from Rolla that came in.”
Clark, the warrior that he is, refused to take significant time off as he recovered. The large student turnout at the Summit game demonstrated how much more it was than just a game. It surprised him, but not anyone else. The Webster students, staff and community in attendance were showing their appreciation for the unwavering devotion he shows to them.
“My goal is when I leave here everyday, for me to leave here knowing I did my best at everything I do, especially with the students,” Clark said. “Playing basketball and coaching basketball has taught me that everything you do in life, give 100 percent and do your best. Every time you step on the court, give your 100 percent effort at all times.”
In front a packed Roberts Gym, Coach Clark got his 100th percent.